“Yeah, I’m a dream chaser. It’s my 9 to 5, you know.” Wiry smile.
“Never would’ve thought you the type to go chasing dreams. What gives?”
“You know me, I was always the deranged romantic,” he said with a bit of a smile. Of course, that wasn’t the real reason: he hadn’t cared much for romance or romantic ideals since the last war reduced all human or quasi-human populations below 1 percent their pre-war levels. Dream chasing was merely something that paid the bills, and was one of the jobs that the bots flat out couldn’t do. More humans would chase dreams, but most people couldn’t handle the crushing loneliness in between pulls. So they mostly di
A pebble glanced off his viewport, bringing him out of his temporary reverie. A pretty big scratch for a tiny pebble: must’ve been going almost half the speed of light. He must be close to his target asteroid.
“Hey, Jim, I’m coming up on a strike. You know how hard catching dreams…”
“Yup, haven’t forgotten. Hey, we have to catch up over drinks later. I’ll talk to you later.”
The com snapped off, and he pointed his craft directly towards the dark spot in the middle of his view port, an interstellar asteroid framed by the brilliance of a galaxy full of stars. Lonely asteroids like this one were one of the few objects in the galaxy that still had appreciable amounts of dreams tied up into them: no one realized that dreams even existed until someone noticed they couldn’t colonize the alien planets after the war. They could slap down terraformers and move in cities, but the people would loose their will to power and entire planets would become slums, with people fleeing as quickly as they could scrape together money for tickets until only an apathetic mass was left. There wasn’t anything physically different about these planets with regards to planets held only by humans, so the social scientists had a field day trying to explain the phenomenon until one of them pointed out similar conditions developing on the original planet, Earth. We knew where we came from, but it still shocked us that Earth, once the hub of technology and culture, had degraded to such a level for no apparent reason: we were fully aware of the folly of the Americans and the Romans, and Earth was designed to not fall to the same effect.
But fall it did: then someone discovered dreams, and all became clear: we had used up all our dreams on Earth during our long stay there, and the aliens had used all of theirs, which played a role in how we handily defeated them. For 100 years, we put our best scientists and artists on new worlds, where dreams were abundant, and prospered.
For 100 years.
Then the wars happened, wars over the shortage of dreams. We were running out of planets in the galaxy, and the next galaxy over was farther than any of us could travel, then. Once someone found out how to extract dreams, armies sprung back into vouge, with planets invading other planets to stage massive dream mining operations. Then, the sentient bots rose up and started the last war, which was fought 10,000 years ago, when I lost my…
A firm thunk resonanted through his craft: he had surprisingly subconciously guided it into the asteroid. Well, 6000 years of doing the same task over and over was bound to build in some muscle memory. He flipped the switch to start the dream extraction process, and sat back.
Bots cared nothing for dreams, or almost anything human for that matter. If you couldn’t pay the bills, then you died. In the end, defeating death didn’t matter if you were too poor to buy food, and the bots outperformed the humans in all jobs. What was left of humanity died in droves, unable to find jobs alongside the bots, until only those with fat savings accounts were left. Those, and the people with the gall to chase dreams to sell to the rich. Silicon didn’t have the knack for finding dreams, so humanity still had something to keep itself occupied.
A soft beep announced the completion of the dream extraction. Not too many dreams in this pull, but he’d seen worse. He pulled the craft away from the asteroid, and pointed his craft back the way he came. With any luck, Jim would get back from chasing dreams at the same time, and they could hopefully both find buyers. Most of the young ones had already died as paupers, buying up too many dreams at the start. The older ones drove a mean deal, and hoarded their dreams, but they were the only ones left buying.
Which reminds me, he thought…
“Hey, two coms in 10 minutes! And before that, what, it was one com in the past 7000 years?”
“Yeah, right.” It was true. “Listen, are you headed back to Solaris? I’m thinking about heading back there with this…”
“Sorry, kid, I’ve had enough of this. I’ve been on Solaris for the past month, looking for a buyer. Couldn’t find one human in this mess, and we know it’s the best place to find em. I’m done.”
“Wait wait wait”
“I’m waiting, kid. I’ll be gone before you get here, though. Figured it out: I’m gonna overdose on dreams and go out with a bang.”
You could do that?
“Heard about someone that did that once, way back when. Guess it couldn’t hurt.”
“What about trying to hop galaxies?” Some people had struck out for another galaxy back before the war, and some more tried after it. He had heard about a desperate dream chaser that had struck out 100 years ago…
“Nah, I’m done. Couldn’t scrape up a craft that could make the distance, with the money I have now. In fact, my rent’s gonna run out in 23 minutes. Listen, kid, don’t worry about me. I’m gonna try to find some food, and the bots will have everything cleaned up in no time.”
“Yup, goodbye. Best of luck ta ya, kid.”
The com snaps off.
He stared out the port, blinking into the face of a billion unblinking stars staring back. He turned up the throttle and